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Top prize at Asian Cinema Festival goes to China/Tibet film 'Jinpa'

Pema Tseden, Director of 'Jinpa', Winner of the 2019 FICA Golden Rickshaw (L), Jean-Marc Thérouanne, co-director of FICA, Vesoul, 12 February, 2019
Pema Tseden, Director of 'Jinpa', Winner of the 2019 FICA Golden Rickshaw (L), Jean-Marc Thérouanne, co-director of FICA, Vesoul, 12 February, 2019 Jean-François Maillot

The 25th Cyclo d'Or (Golden Rickshaw) award at the Fica, the Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie, went to Pema Tseden's Jinpa, a mystery story with a philosophical thrust. The film won three of this year's 12 awards.

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Singaporean Eric Khoo led the international jury at Fica which chose Jinpa out of eight films in the feature fiction. He and the other members of the jury, all directors, Bae Chang-ho from South Korea, Palestinian Rashid Masharawi, and Kazakh Darezhan Omirbaev agreed that it was original in its style and cinematic language.

Tseden based the screenplay on two novels, The Slayer by Tsering Norbu and his own I Ran Over a Sheep. It won Best Screenplay in the 'Horizons' section at the 75th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Italy in 2018.

Khoo told RFI that he was drawn to films which "spoke" to him "beyond any specifc cultural references."

Singaporian director Eric Khoo receives a Golden Rickshaw from Fica for the body of his work over 3 decades, Vesoul, February 2019
Singaporian director Eric Khoo receives a Golden Rickshaw from Fica for the body of his work over 3 decades, Vesoul, February 2019 Jean-François Maillot, FICA

Khoo was awarded a Cyclo d'Or d'Honneur for his career as a film-maker, producer and writer who has had a huge influence on Singapore's film industry over the past three decades.

 

Afghanistan migrants in Iran

The Grand Prix went toRona, Azim's Mother directed by young Teheran-based Afghan-born director Jamshid Mahmoudi. In Iranian style, with sparing dialogue and artistically-lit interiors, the film is about the challenges Afghan immigrants face in everyday life in Iran.

The problems are seen through the relationship between two brothers, and how they and the rest of the family cope with their mother's imminent death. One brother emigrates with his small son, the other is left to face the music and decide whether to risk his own life in trying to save his elderly mother. Only an Afghan can donate an organ to an Afghan immigrant, an Iranian donor is not allowed.

Mahmoudi explained that the idea came from his own life experience. "Ten years ago, my mother had been ill and died. Her death had an effect on the way the whole family functioned." He added, "The main issue in this film is the same as in my previous film. It's always about Afghan immigrant issues. Because I observe how the community fares and when there are problems, as a film-maker, I try to help."

Migrants making films

Luckily, for all those who see the director's films, and for him and his producer brother, their looks and his accent "aren't really different from the Iranians."

"My brother [Navid] and I have been able to work in TV, we have been accepted. However, I insist that it's not only because we work hard, it's also because we look like Iranians. It has helped preserve us from more discrimination.

"There are about two million Afghan refugees in Iran. I am one of the 30 or so who have succeeded. Many are suffering because of lack of protection. Not only from the government, but also from the local people."

Not so ironically then, the two main actors in this film about an Afghan immigrant family, are Iranian. Mojtaba Pirzadeh, who plays Faroogh, the brother who takes off, was in Asghar Farhadi's 2016 Cannes Best Actor award-winner The Salesman. Actor-director Mohsen Tanabandeh conveys Azim's inner feelings with few words and a lot of talent.

Several scenes are remarkable examples of Mahmoudi's creative touch, one quasi-shadow scene of the Afghan municipal workers hacking at a road with picks and other tools. Another, a middle-distance shot of the dying mother in half shade against a background of light-filtering lace curtains and coloured plants in pots.

The combined work of the cast and the Mahmoudi brothers saw the film make it to Busan and become the third film of theirs to be the Afghan entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, although it was eventually not nominated.

FICA 2019 Awards

  • Cyclo d'Or (Golden Rickshaw) award - Jinpa by Pema Tseden
  • International Jury Award - Sub-Zero Wind by South Korean Kim Yu-ri
  • Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema Award - A Family Tour by Ying Liang, a Hong Kong Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia co-production
  • Critics' Award - Jinpa by Pema Tseden
  • INALCO (Asian Studies University in Paris) Award - Rona, Azim's Mother
  • INALCO's Special Award - Jinpa, Pema Tseden
  • Audience Fiction Award - jointly, African Violet, Mona Zandi Haghghi from Iran and Waiting for Sunset, Carlo Encisco Cato, from The Philippines.
  • Youth Fiction Award - African Violet, Mona Zandi Haghghi
  • Audience Documentary Award - Southern China: A road for Xiao Jiang by Jean-Michel Corillion - China-France co-production
  • Youth Documentary Award - Of Fathers and Sons by Talal Derki, Syria
  • Cinema Owners Award - Sibel by Çağla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti, Turkey

From 5 to 12 February, the festival in Vesoul in the east of France drew 32 700 visitors.

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